Project Canterbury

Theodora Phranza; or, the Fall of Constantinople

By John Mason Neale

New York: E.P. Dutton, 1913.
First published London: J. Masters, 1857.

Chapter XVII.

"But, since the affairs of men stand still uncertain.
Let's reason with the worst that may befall.
If we do lose this battle, then is this
The very last time we shall speak together.
What are you then determined to do?"

Julius Caesar.

"Who is on duty at the Silivri Gate?" cried Constantine, as, during an attack from the Janissaries, he met one or two of the principal officers in a hurried council in the Tower of S. Romanus.

"The Great Logothete," said Phranza. [Great Logothete: this dignity, originally equivalent to that of Postmaster-General, was instituted by Andronicus Palaeologus; but in the later times of the Byzantine Empire, when there were no distant functionaries to whom the Emperor's orders might be transmitted, it seems to have been well-nigh a sinecure.]

"They seem slow in their defence towards the Hadrionople Gate. The firing has quite ceased. How is that?"

"Sire," said Sir Edward de Rushton,--"I am from thence. They are husbanding their powder--for the attack has slackened; and, if we have the consumption of last week for the next, there would not be an ounce left in Constantinople."

"They come on like fiends," said the Emperor, looking from one of the narrow windows. "That Bulgarian renegade, Baltha Ogli, seems determined to carry all before him. My Lords, we must on to the rampart. De Rushton, ride to the Tower of Belisarius, and bring up the twenty or thirty Varangians left there. There is not the slightest danger on the sea side."

"I will be back instantly, my Liege." And he hurried off.

Deafened by the roaring of the huge cannon, harassed by the blinding clouds of drifting smoke,--quarrels, bullets, and arrows flying thickly round them, Constantine and Phranza passed along the outer wall, as calmly as in the palace garden. Now there was a shout of "La allah ilia Allah, as some Mussulman distinguished himself by a successful aim, or a bastion trembled under the blow of one of the enormous masses of stone hurled by the cannon of the infidel;--now it was "S. George for England!" as a couple of Varangians, heaving a mass of rock from the wall, dashed off the head of a ram that was butting it: now, farther off, "Saint Denis!" was the shout; while, fighting hand to hand with the infidels,--no unaccustomed warfare for them, "S. Mark for Venice!" told of the daring of the paid forces of the republic, or "Flanders and the Lion!" of the chivalry of some Flemish knight. In the very heat of the conflict, a procession passed along the inner wall, bearing a banner with the image of the Protectress Virgin; and the tumult and confusion, the shrieks and outcries, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting, was strangely contrasted with the wail of the Litany, and the constant and suppliant cry, "Again and again, in peace, let us make our supplications to the Lord."

"Ha!" cried the Emperor, as a drift of smoke swept past--"that is a new arrangement--they are pointing yonder cannon against the opposite sides of the salient angles--there--at S. Nicholas' bastion."

"Some one is directing the engineers, sire,--yonder! By S. Dimitri, I believe that it is that archtraitor Leontius--he learnt that secret at your Majesty's own banquet, when the General Justiniani was describing a Western siege."

"Where is Justiniani?" inquired the Emperor.

"Gone home for an hour's rest," said Contari, who happened to be on that part of the wall.

"Gone home!" cried the Emperor. "What now?"

"So please your Highness, I will summon him."

"Go at once--no, stay--here comes better help. Lord Acolyth, they are bringing eight or ten cannons to bear on S. Nicolas's bastion--Leontius is directing the work---see, there! will you dislodge them?"

"Instantly, sire. Contari, go to Burstow--he is towards S. Theodore's Church; bid him take twenty Varangians, and fifty of the native troops, and take yonder party in the rear, while I attack them in front. My lads," speaking to the men he had just brought up--"if I go down, never mind me; spike the cannon, and then get safe back--and twenty gold pieces for Leontius's head!"

"You are under his orders, Stratopedarch," said the Caesar to an officer standing near. "Follow him with thirty men." [Stratopedarch: this personage was the ninth in order in the offices of the Byzantine Palace. Commander of the forces is the nearest English title which would describe him.]

The gate of S. Romans flew open--out galloped the Acolyth and his followers; and even while the engineers were most closely superintending the position of the largest cannon,--"S. George the Callinicus!" "De Rushton! De Rushton!" "S. Edward for England!" rose confusedly in their very midst. The cannoneers could not offer the slightest defence--for linstocks were not then used--but Baltha Ogli, with a strong party of Janissaries, flew to the succour of the attacked part. Outnumbering the assailants five to one, they stretched an impenetrable line against the most violent efforts of the Varangians.

"Leontius! Leontius!" shouted De Rushton,--"Cowardly dog! Turn for one moment, apostate and traitor! Nay, then, if you will cross my way, have at you in S. George's name!" as Baltha Olgi spurred his powerful horse against the Varangian leader. He was a man of gigantic frame, and the powerful animal which he rode had almost borne, in the first shock, De Rushton to the ground. The dexterity of Western chivalry soon began to tell against the barbarous style of the Bulgarian giant. And, just as one severe wound had taught Baltha Ogli that, with such an opponent, his life was in imminent danger, from the further gate galloped the party led by Burstow, with loud shouts of "S. George for England! the Virgin the Protectress!"

"Lord Phranza," said Constantine, "this knight shames us all. There is Justiniani, brave man as he is, must needs be sleeping at this very moment: but De Rushton, with scarcely less prudence, has ten times his vigour. By S. Dimitri! I have a mind to despatch him to Chios, to discover what detains our missing ships there!"

His attention was a moment called off to Burstow, who was now in close pursuit of Baltha Ogli.

"Could we afford to lose one for ten or even twenty, sire," said Phranza, "this day's work were a brave one."

"They are spiking the cannon," cried the Emperor. "Ah! my brave Varangians, I knew I might trust you! But what think you of my plan, Phranza?"

"It is wonderful," said the Protovestiare, "what can detain those vessels; but I own, I think the attempt, with five ships, to break through three hundred, is almost desperate."

"If they do not, my Lord, how are we to procure gunpowder?"

Phranza merely shrugged his shoulders.

"I believe," continued the Caesar, "that they are held back by the greatness of the risk. If so,--and if it be possible to relieve the city, I can trust no man like De Rushton."

"It is a great stake to throw for, sire; but methinks it were well thrown. But how is he to reach Chios?"

"Oh, the difficulty for a single boat to steal out will not be so very great," replied Constantine. "At all events, he must run that as well as the other."

"Then the sooner the better, sire."

"The sooner the better. Look yonder! The reserve of Amurath's veterans are coming up. By the Panaghia, he will be cut off! Ah, no--he sees it--there is the trumpet of recall. And now, Lord Phranza, I have a favour to ask at your hands."

"To ask, sire, is to command."

"But I would not force it from you, Phranza. Give it willingly, or give it not at all."

"Most willingly, sire: so much I can say beforehand."

"Still, if, when you have heard it, you think otherwise, you shall have full licence to retract what you now say. I know, Lord Phranza, what it is that urges this English knight on--valiant and true he would be ever,--I would rather say, that stirs him up to such intense exertion."

The Great Protovestiare looked uneasy.

"And I have known it long, Phranza. The poets, you know, tell us that love can do wonders; and for once they do not lie; for he proves it. But tell me,--were it not well (and I speak as much for you as for him) were it not well that you promised him, if he succeeds in this attempt, the recompense for which he has striven so long and so nobly?"

"My Liege," said Phranza, "your words must ever be laws to me. But your Splendour cannot wonder if I have hitherto hesitated to match the daughter of one of the best houses of Constantinople with a foreign adventurer."

"My Lord," returned Constantine, mournfully, "dare to look at things as they are. Is there the meanest Count, think you, in Europe, that would change his paltry coronet for my imperial diadem? And by the like reasoning, may not a knight of good birth, and undoubted valour, and so approved in every point of chivalry, claim to match with your daughter, circumstances being as they are--although he comes from that barbarous northern country?"

Phranza was silent. His pride and his good sense were strongly contesting possession of his heart.

"Forgive me, my Lord," proceeded Constantine, soothingly, "if I have said anything which might hurt you. What I have said of you, I had before said of myself; and--so help me the Panaghia!--had I a daughter, princess though she were, I should hold her the safer, and myself the more honoured, for this knight's alliance."

"I can hold out no longer, sire: so be it, then, in God's name."

"That is well and wisely spoken," said the Emperor, "and you have a Caesar's thanks. Look! the Janissaries are drawing off! There will be no more work to-day."

The parties that had sallied out, after facing round once or twice upon their pursuers, had now made good their retreat. The gates were closed, and Sir Edward de Rushton soon was again standing by the Emperor.

"Bravely done, as ever, my Lord Acolyth!" cried Constantine; "I think that will be your last exploit for today. Come with the Lord Phranza into the tower; I have a matter of importance on which to speak to you."

De Rushton followed into the lower part of S. Romanus's Tower, where a room had been hastily fitted up for the Emperor's occasional reception.

"Nicephorus," said Constantine, "we would be private. Admit no one for the next half hour."

"And let me find you on the wall, Burstow, when I come out again," said De Rushton.

"Ay, my good Lord."

Constantine seated himself, and then said, "I need not tell you, my Lord Acolyth, that all hope of relieving the city, both from famine, of which there is danger, and from want of ammunition, with which we are even now so sorely pressed, lies in the arrival of those ships that, as we last heard, were at Chios."

"Has your Majesty intelligence of them?"

"Not a word," replied Constantine. "But it is too evident, either that they do not know our extreme need, or that they are afraid to run the risk."

"Yet, by the account, they are strong vessels," observed De Rushton.

"Ay," replied the Emperor; "but five to three hundred is fearful odds. For the imperial galley, I can warrant it; I have sailed in her with my brother, the blessed one. [i. e. my late brother.] For the Genoese, we have only their own words. But the sum of all is this, Lord Acolyth. We have determined to despatch some one, if it be possible, from the city, to bring those galleys in. The risk is great--the glory will be great too. Are you willing to be the man?"

"I thank your Majesty," cried De Rushton, kneeling; "I could not have asked for anything better."

"Could you not?" said Constantine, smiling and looking at Phranza; "that is but a poor compliment to you, my Lord. I fear I must ask you to retract what you have even now said."

"I think not, sire.--De Rushton, some time agone you told me that you loved my daughter; do you still hold in that mind?"

"Would I reach Paradise?" cried the knight.

"If, then, you return in safety from this adventure, take her, and take my blessing with her," answered Phranza.

De Rushton poured out his thanks in terms more energetic than eloquent.--"And when, sire, am I to set forth? and in what way does your Majesty deem the best?"

"As to the way, one soldier you had better take with you; and then you must try to creep through the blockading fleet by night. For the time, this very night, if you so please."

"With your Majesty's leave, I will take Burstow with me. He is faithful and courageous as any, and has a brain that will carry him through everything."

"Do so, my Lord. We will draw out a warrant for your taking the command of the fleet. You must remember to humour the Genoese captains, for they love not interference. Never interfere, except in case of necessity; but then, all offence must be risked."

"I understand, sire."

"Come to me in the palace at dusk," said Constantine, "and have all your preparations ready by that time."

"I have but one to make, sire, and that is of the Lord Protovestiare.--My Lord, I am setting forth on an expedition full of risk, from which I may never return: I shall go with a lighter heart, if you will let me have half an hour's speech of your daughter before I set forth."

"My Lord," said Phranza, "consider that this meeting would be but painful to you at the best; and if----"

"Nay, nay," said Constantine, "by all the rules of Western chivalry, the lover should see his mistress before setting forth to his battles. Have you not a silly trick of wearing the lady's scarf, in your knighthood?"

"It is often so done," replied De Rushton.

"Give him licence, give him licence, Lord Phranza."

"You have my good leave, Lord Acolyth. Shall I see you again?"

"Come you to us, my Lord," said Constantine, "when this same interview is over.--Go, now, and S. George speed you!"

"Burstow," said the knight, "you may come back with me to my lodgings. The Emperor has given me a commission to take charge of the fleet at Chios. You have heard of it, I doubt not------"

"Oh, yes, my Lord; they say that the city cannot hold out a fortnight longer, if it does not arrive."

"If I can once get there," continued Sir Edward, "I do not fear for the consequences. The thing is, how to get forth in safety. I am to have one companion, and I have chosen you."

"And you could not have chosen a better man, my Lord, unless you had taken Contari; and him it would be cruel needlessly to take from his wife."

"You have not a very modest opinion of your own merits, Burstow."

"No, my Lord; I never had. I never could see the use of it. If I had had it, I should not have the honour of accompanying your Lordship to Chios."

"Only do as gallantly as you did at Hadrianople, Burstow, and we cannot but succeed. Stay--this is S. Theodore's lane; I will just bid the Exarch Choniates and his family farewell: do you go on to the palace."

Eager as Sir Edward was to be with Theodora, it struck him that, by mentioning the fact of her father's consent to his seeking her hand to Sophia Choniatis, he might ensure her one firm friend in case of need. He stopped at the house which the old Exarch then occupied, and was shown into the apartment which he usually tenanted. There also, contrary to his expectation, he found Euphrasia and her mother.

"Country habits, country habits, you see, my Lord," said the Exarch, rising to welcome him. "Here we are, sitting all together, as we might have been at Silivri. None of your women's apartments for me; it was never merry world since they came in. I have been on the ramparts all the morning, I promise you; I have but just taken off my brigandine. A masterly manner you drove the dogs back in, my Lord: how many cannon did you spike?"

"Four, worthy Exarch; I marvel that I saw you not. A happy time of day to you, lady; and to you, fair Euphrasia. No news, I fear, of Lord Chrysolaras?"

"None, my Lord," replied Sophia Choniatis.

"I have come," he continued, "to ask your congratulations." And he went on to tell his long love for Theodora, the difficulties he had experienced from Phranza, and the promise he had just received from that nobleman of his daughter's hand, should he himself succeed in a dangerous enterprise, which, however, he did not more minutely particularize, on which he was even then about to set forth.

"Glad to hear it, my Lord," cried the honest old Exarch; "glad to hear it, with all my heart. S. Dimitri bring you safely through your businesss, whatever it be!"

"I am in haste," said the knight; "I am even now on my way to the Lord Phranza's house. But I would fain first tell you this: that, when the Lady Theodora shall see you next, as I know she often does see you, she may feel as among friends."

"I understand you, my Lord," said Sophia Choniatis; "and God's blessing be with you, and come back with you!"

"Amen!" replied the knight, "and I am much beholden to you. And the same wish for our friend, Lord Manuel.--Now I must bid you farewell." And he was speedily on his way to the palace.

At the door of Phranza's metcecia he found old Barlaam, with whom, during that long and tedious winter, he had contracted a kind of friendship.

"Is the Lady Theodora within?" he inquired eagerly.

"She is in the garden," replied the old man, with a kind of half smile, which he veiled under an appearance of most demure gravity.

"Thither will I, then," said De Rushton; "I come to her from her father." And he entered and passed through the hall, and found himself in the garden we have more than once described.

It was a melancholy evening in spring. The sun had set about a quarter of an hour; there was a clear, cold, bright hue of green where he had gone down; Venus was just visible towards the west; the air had a touch of chilliness in it, but was perfectly still; the buds were beginning to burst forth, and one or two of the April flowers of that warm land filled the garden with fragrance. The landscape was confined to the north, so that the besieging army was no longer visible; but over Galata a cloud hung, the scattered remains of the fog-smoke of that day's battle. The Bosporus, instead of rolling in light, was covered with an innumerable multitude of the besieging fleet,--rude, black boats,--here and there a taller galley,--alive with a crowded soldiery, and lazily tossing on the calm deep. Theodora was walking up and down the terrace, scarcely seeing the scene around her, her thoughts fixed on the end of these terrible preparations, and almost envying the lot of her mother, who was sleeping quietly in the cemetery of S. Irene.

"Theodora! dear Theodora! I come to you with your father's consent: will you tell me now that we must part?"

Theodora Phranza had not noticed his step till he spoke; and the flush of joy that passed over her cheek sealed De Rushton's happiness.

"No, Lord Acolyth," she said. And she held out her hand to him.

"You have made me a man indeed, dearest one," said De Rushton, after the first few words of transport were over; "and, truth to say, there is need of it too, for this very night I must leave the city."

"Leave the city! Where? why? Nay then, it is you who come to say we must part."

"Had it not been for this parting, Theodora, we might not have met so soon. The Emperor has been pleased to give into my charge those ships now at Chios, on the safe entry of which into the Horn the well being of the city depends. I am to use my endeavours to get to them unperceived; and then we must force our way in. Your father told me, that, if I succeed, his free leave should I have to be a suitor for your hand; and the Caesar, like himself, prevailed on him to let me come here even now."

"But how shall you succeed? how shall you attempt to leave the city? you will be taken in the very first trial."

"I hope better things, dearest. And, if I am fortunate enough to reach Chios, I shall know that you will be looking on us, as we come up yonder strait; and trust me, the knowledge of that will enable me to do wonders."

"But do not be rash, do not be rash, Sir Edward. I heard my father say the other day that you and that Varangian who liberated the Exarch Choniates were the two rashest men in the city. And oh! I must not tell you how it terrified me to hear it."

"Fear nothing, dearest: I can assure you that Burstow, who is going to be my companion to-night, is the very man to bring us safely through anything."

Theodora inquired eagerly after his plans. Nothing, he told her, was as yet arranged; but Phranza would be present at the consultation, and would know, and could tell her, whatever was known.

Thus they went on talking till the half-hour specified had gone by, and darkness was gathering round them.

"And now, dear Theodora, I must leave you really. The Caesar was to expect me in half an hour, and I fear I have overstayed the time. God bless you, my own one! and give us to meet as joyfully as we part sorrowfully. You will not say no: it may be for the last time," he continued, as he almost frightened Theodora by the--for the time and place--extravagant liberty he took of throwing his arms round her, and kissing her fair cheek. Another moment, and he was gone.

Outside Phranza's lodgings he found Burstow. "My Lord," said that worthy personage, "I don't like your plan of passing the Turkish fleet; I think I could tell you a better one."

"Walk on with me to the Emperor's apartments; I will hear it as we go."

"I would rather escape by land, my Lord, if I am to have a voice in the matter. We might be two Turks. I can pass myself off for one anywhere, as your Lordship knows; and you have only to leave the talking to me, and look Turk-like, if we fall in with any advanced post."

"I will be guided by you, Burstow, in the business, if the Emperor finds no difficulty in the plan. But why not try the sea?"

"If we did, we are sure to fall in with some of their vessels--they lie as thick as bees in a hive. Disguised we must be, after all. By land, we may escape notice at all; by sea, we are sure of it; and, to tell you the truth, my Lord, I feel twice the man on dry land that I do on the water. It is not my element."

"I will speak to the Caesar," replied the knight. "Wait me here."

"You are waited for, my Lord," said one of the secretaries, as De Rushton entered the hall. "This way, my Lord: "and he led him into Constantine's presence.

"Welcome, my Lord!" said the Emperor, looking up from a paper which he was signing: "you are late, but we can pardon you. Your signature, my Lord Great Logothete." And the celebrated Lucas Notaras, Great Logothete of the Empire, affixed his name in green ink under the imperial purple letters.

The Emperor was attended by this nobleman, by Phranza, by one or two officers of the native troops, by the secretary who had drawn up the document which had just been signed, and by a tall, bony, stern-looking Frank, very strongly built, with a pleasing and open countenance, but with a certain look of sleepiness about his eyes, which might have led a physiognomist to declare him deficient in energy. This was the famous Justiniani.

"Here," said Constantine, "is your warrant for assuming the command of all the vessels now lying at Chios. They are absolutely to obey your directions, and our instructions to you are to relieve the city at any risk, even if you have to encounter the whole force of the enemy. The accounts we have this evening received of the magazines--my Lords, this goes no further than these walls--are dreadful. We have but sixty-five barrels of gunpowder left; and provisions are beginning to run short. We must from this day diminish the allowance of the city one fourth, for all not engaged in actual service."

De Rushton knelt, and took the warrant: "My Lord Caesar," said he, "have I your Majesty's leave to make my own choice of the means for getting out of the city?"

"Certainly, my Lord."

"Then, sire, it would be by land." And he mentioned the reasons for such a course which had been detailed to him by Burstow, amplifying them with one or two more arguments which had occurred to himself.

"It does seem the best plan," said the Emperor. "What say you, Justiniani?"

"I think it has the less risk of the two, sire: though J, there is danger in both. But I envy you, my Lord; Acolyth; you have a fair field open to you to win immortal;

"Then, General Justiniani, you must have the goodness to write me a pass for the Silivri gate; that is where I shall leave the city."

"Have I your Majesty's leave?" inquired the Genoese.

Constantine bowed his head; and advancing to the table, Justiniani bent over it, and wrote as follows:

"To the sergeant on guard at the Silivri gate.--Allow Sir Edward de Rushton"------"how many attendants, Lord Acolyth?"

"Only one."

"And one attendant to pass out this night. April 14. Saturday. As witness my hand.--Justiniani."

"The result of this scheme," said Constantine, "is in God's hands, and to Him we cheerfully leave it. We know well that all that heroism, skill, and courage can do, will be done by you, my Lord; and so to His care we very heartily commit you."

Bidding farewell to the rest of the assembled party, Sir Edward de Rushton rejoined Burstow, with the intelligence that he had a pass for the Silivri gate.

"That is well, my Lord. The next thing to be done is to equip you as a Turk: I will bring you a dress which I think will suit you if you will go home."

In about half an hour the two adventurers were equipped; and, not without exciting a good deal of attention even at that late hour in the city, and being once or twice compelled to produce their pass, they proceeded through the Contoscalion, by the church of S. Parasceve, by that of S. Theodore, and so finally presented themselves at the Silivri gate.

"You don't imagine we are going to let you pass?" cried the soldier on guard.

"Call the Serjeant of the watch, if you do not know me, fellow," replied Sir Edward. And that officer being summoned, and having read the document, made a low obeisance to the Great Acolyth, whom he had not previously recognized; and gave orders that the gates should instantly be opened. This was done: and De Rushton and Burstow found themselves on a clear twilight night without the walls of the Imperial city.

"Remember, my Lord," said Burstow, "if we are stopped, I am Mustapha, and you are Abdallah,--brothers,--and we are going to Rhodosto to see our father, having been for some time on board the fleet."

"If I have to speak," said Sir Edward, "my accent will betray me at once."

"You must leave the speaking to me, my Lord; and if it is so that you cannot help it, you must answer yes, or no, or that you don't know, as briefly as possible. But I hope we may escape. I see they have not carried on the trenches on this side."

In silence and obscurity they pursued their way towards Athyra for nearly a quarter of a mile; when, just as they were beginning to flatter themselves that the danger was over, a Turkish sentinel came out from a miserable hovel on the right hand.

"Stand, ho!" he cried;--"the word!"

"How should I know the word, comrade?" said Burstow. "We are but just from the fleet--landed under the very wall--the dogs keep bad guard, they let us pass."

"But I must have the word," persisted the man.

"Then, by the Prophet, you must tell it us first," said the other.

"I must take you to my officer," said the sentinel, "our orders are strict."

"Come, comrade, come," said Burstow, "you won't be so harsh. We have had a world of trouble to get leave of absence from Baltha Ogli: he is as strict as a dragon: and now to be stopped at the beginning of our journey is too much, by Mahomet."

"Where are you going?" inquired the soldier.

"As far as Rhodosto," answered the Varangian, "to see our father, my brother Abdallah and I."

The sentinel seemed as if he would have allowed them to pass, when three persons, who appeared to be officers of rank, though they were enveloped from head to foot in simple military cloaks, came up.

"How now?" said the foremost of them, a man apparently about five-and-twenty years in age, with a bright, piercing eye that seemed to flash as it reflected the sentinel's torch, an aquiline nose, a clear, decided voice, and a good but somewhat haughty expression of countenance.

"How now? what is the dispute?"

"These soldiers desire to pass without the word," replied the sentinel.

"How? without the word? Do you not know it, fellows?"

"No," said Burstow, briefly. "How should we? We are poor fellows, just from the fleet, and unless we divined it, we had no chance of knowing the word. We left the fleet before it was given out."

"By the thirty-seven thousand prophets!" said the first speaker, "they are spies! Have them before the Aga, sentinel!"

"You lie," said Burstow. "If the Sultan were here, he would see justice done us; but among your Agas and your Pashas one has a poor chance."

"Why would the Sultan let you pass, sirrah?"

"Because he has as much wit in his little finger as his officers in their whole body, and he would see at once that we were speaking the truth."

"By the Black Stone! I do believe it," said the Sultan,--for it was no other than Mahomet himself. "Let them pass, sentinel!" and the astonished sentinel fell prostrate on the ground: imitated by Burstow and rather unwillingly by Sir Edward.

"Go on, good fellows; we can see that you are honest men. Ha! said he well, Pasha?"

"Your Highness's knowledge is as that of the Prophet," said the obsequious Calil.

"Where are you going, sirrah?" asked Mahomet, who frequently went forth on such nocturnal excursions,--familiar to him from his very youth by the Thousand and One Nights.

"To Rhodosto, may it please your Highness."

"What do you there?"

"We go to visit our father, your Highness."

"Well, pass on: and you, good sentinel, we commend you for your vigilance. Come, my Lord Pasha."

No sooner were the Varangian and his leader beyond the hearing of the sentinel, than De Rushton said, "S. Mary be praised! that was an escape."

"I knew him, my Lord, by his voice. I thought it was he when he came up; that speech of mine about the Sultan did the business, and now, I warrant me, he goes back thinking he has done a good action, and it will be in the mouths of all the eunuchs by this time to-morrow. So men deceive themselves. But we must on, my Lord. I have a kind of cousin at Athyra, who I make no doubt will let us hire a couple of horses of him, and then on to Silivri as we best may. There we must try to find a boat across the strait."

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